For the vast majority of small businesses, IT support means taking time away from an employee who is already doing something else to solve a problem that the employee may or may not have any idea how to fix. In many cases, it means hours spent on a tech support line, more hours waiting for return calls and solutions that may or may not work depending on the expertise (or lack of it) of the employee who has been called in to fix things.
T-Mobile aims to fix that with a new service called the T-Mobile for Business Help Desk. The service is for T-Mobile business customers with T-Mobile One voice service. Currently it’s starting out small, limiting accounts to companies with 12 or fewer voice lines on T-Mobile.
According to T-Mobile, 81 percent of businesses this small or smaller don’t have any IT support at all. They are the ones where the business owner or a knowledgeable employee does their best to keep things running. These companies can get the T-Mobile for Business Help Desk for $40 per month per account, with each account having up to 12 lines.
The help desk service provides access to trained tech support staff based in the United States that are available seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to midnight ET. The staff can help with most routine business problems, including help with configuration and installation and dealing with unexpected errors including problems with antivirus software. The staff will also provide help with using most business software, with updating the software, with error messages and with resolution of errors.
T-Mobile promises that calls will be answered within 30 seconds. Help is available for Windows and Macintosh systems, as well as for applications that run on those systems. The tech support team will also help with wireless devices that T-Mobile provides when they’re being used in an IT environment. Those devices are still supported for non-IT uses through the normal T-Mobile support line.
“We started this with the customer groups that we felt had the greatest need for this service,” explained T-Mobile Executive Vice President Mike Katz, who is heading up the effort. Katz said the need became the greatest as those small businesses became more and more mobile. “We wanted a service that allows them to keep running their business,” he said.
The service is available to subscribers through a toll-free number or through the T-Mobile for Business Help Desk app on the Apple App Store or on Google Play. The support staff can help in a number of ways, either by connecting directly to your computer or mobile device, or by leading you through the resolution steps over the phone.
While other help desk services for small businesses do exist, the $40-per-month charge really sets T-Mobile apart. An informal survey of similar services in the Washington, D.C., area showed that not only do the prices for such services run nearly $200 per month, but in many cases there is also an hourly charge. Many, but not all, of those services are restricted to a local area.
It’s worth noting that while some of those services require signing up for an annual contract, the T-Mobile service does not.
Limited Security Help
There are some things that T-Mobile currently doesn’t offer as part of its Help Desk. The most notable is help with security. While Katz said that the Business Help Desk will help with installing and configuring antivirus software and with virus removal, it’s not going to support more complex security tasks. This is unfortunate because if there’s an area in which small business is hurting the worst in terms of expertise, it’s security.
It would be helpful if the T-Mobile for Business Help Desk were able to assist in tasks such as basic security practices, firewall selection or password practices. Small businesses are a significant target for attackers because they lack the basic knowledge for security; for them, help is critical.
However, what T-Mobile is offering is a big step up from what most small businesses had until now, which is nothing. While some types of businesses frequently choose consultants to help them set up a computer system, usually one that’s industry-specific, that’s not the case for most.
What T-Mobile seems to be doing here is give its customers and potential customers a compelling reason to switch their business wireless network to T-Mobile. The company already has a wireless help desk that closely resembles the Business Help Desk, and it already has competitive rates and coverage. The launch of the help desk may be reason enough for some companies to make the change.
For others, the simplicity of the app-based help desk may draw them in. As you’d expect, it virtually explodes in magenta, which is T-Mobile’s signature color, but within all of that is a well-designed app that makes getting good help easy and quick. It’s a very good idea on the part of T-Mobile, which wants to take on its competition with a magenta wave.